The Word and Image show is one of my favorite projects and it took place last month at the Hoffman Center for the Arts in Manzanita (on the Oregon coast). This event occurs biennially, and I was fortunate to have participated in 2020, so I was eager to apply for 2022. The process for the show goes like this:
Artists and writers are invited to submit samples of their work; artists submit three art images and writers submit three poems/short stories. The jury then chooses 12 artists and 12 writers. A pairing event is held where an artist’s name is pulled from a hat, then a writer’s name is pulled from a hat, and voila! those two are partners. The artist choses one of the three writing entries and creates a new piece of art in response to the words, likewise, the writer choses a piece of art from those submitted and writes a poem or short story in response. This new work is submitted electronically so beautiful broadsides can be printed and a book prepared and published.
MY PAINTING PROCESS
I chose to use an 18×28 inch cradled birch panel. I prepared it with acrylic paint, a layer of plaster, more acrylic paint to seal the plaster, and a couple layers of oil and cold wax. This was all the preparation to begin painting in response to the writer I was paired with, Simeon Dreyfuss. I chose Simeon’s poem, Walk Roots the Day as the piece I was using for my responsive painting. When the initial layers of my prepped board were completely dry, I wrote Simeon’s poem across the surface of my board.
I began adding layers of paint, looking for the poem to emerge.
After layers of paint, and scraping off a layer, I worked on this piece when I wasn’t teaching at Sitka Center for Art and Ecology– either early in the morning, or in the evening after my students had left for the day. It seemed appropriate to be painting this piece while I was at Cascade Head on the Oregon coast.
Art was delivered to the gallery, art and broadsides were hung, an online reception was held, and a beautiful book was published.
A HAPPY POSTSCRIPT
As I was working on this blog post, I took a break to welcome Paula Booth into my home. Paula is a professor of art at Western Oregon University and also curates the art at two northwest hotels, The Dundee and The Independence. I am fortunate to have art at both hotels and we had made arrangements for Paula to come to my house to view my available work to change out some of my pieces at The Independence. I had just picked up Storm Mounting from the Hoffman Center for the Arts, and so it was one of my available pieces. Paula was excited to include this painting in the group of paintings she selected.
Back in April, I submitted an application to participate in the annual Word & Image: Writers and Artists in Dialogue show at the Hoffman Center for the Arts, a lively art center located on the north Oregon coast in Manzanita. My application was accepted and 12 artists and 12 writers were randomly paired during a Zoom meeting in mid June. Names were drawn from a hat and I was paired with Evan Williams. We both have North Coast connections: Evan has had a family cabin at Neahkahnie for years and lives in Portland. I grew up visiting our family cabin at Sunset Beach and now have a a house in Astoria and split my time between Astoria and Salem. Here is a bit more about Evan: Evan Morgan Williams has published two books of short stories. A Neahkahnie regular since 1969, his stories are realistic fictions, often set along the Oregon Coast. He lives in Portland, where he teaches in a high-poverty middle school.
The project worked like this (stay with me, it can sound confusing): I submitted three images of art I had created in the past. Evan submitted three pieces of his writing. Evan received an email with images of my three paintings and I received an email with copies of his three writings. I was to create a new piece of work in response to one of his writings, and Evan was to write a new story or poem in response to one of my three pieces of art.
I chose Kimberly’s Hands, which Evan said I could share in this post:
After the love-making failed, Michael let Kimberly’s hands take his. Her pleading touch was dry as paper. It didn’t used to be this way. Michael remembered his hands in water, plunged into a mountain creek ahead of an advancing burn. He and his crew had been dropped in a mile ahead of the flames. It was hazard pay, and they earned it. The creek was going to be the line. Michael did not know where that water came from or where it was going. His hands in the water, cold, clear, smooth, lifting what he could to his sooty face. There were ferns and thimbleberry along the shore, and his hands ached, and the water was clear and silent as it slid over jewel-colored stones. That little stream had no idea what was coming over the ridge. The crew tapped a portable pump into that stream, a two-stroker, ugly noise, shaking like a jackhammer, and they hosed down the brush and trees, up and down the creek, until they ran out of petrol, but it wasn’t enough. The fire came. They ditched the pump and ran for their lives. Nothing they could do. Never found that sweet water again. It was probably dry now.
“Michael, come back. It’s all right. Look at me.”
“I know it’s all right.”
Once Kimberly’s hands had felt exactly how that water used to be. Now her hands felt how that water was now.
I chose to paint my response to the story written by Evan and I began by writing his story across the surface of my prepared panel.
The story was layered and nuanced, so I added layers of oil paint mixed with cold wax. For a while the painting looked like this.
It continued to morph and I frequently reread Kimberly’s Hands.
It finally reached that point where I knew it was completed.
My process statement in response to Kimberly’s Hands:
Water, cold, clear, smooth. Ahead of the flames. The water was clear and silent. The fire came. Her pleading touch. The visual language of “Kimberly’s Hands” resonated as I translated Evan’s words into a painting. My own response conjured the passage of time, memories, the devastation of fire, the rejuvenation of water, aging, and desire. I started my piece by writing Evan’s prose across the surface of my board, then began adding layers of paint, partially covering the words. Through the use of layers, texture, and color, I created a visceral and abstracted response.
During my painting and processing over the six weeks, Evan had chosen one of my paintings, The Strange Velvet Beautiful Sea, and in response wrote Diving In.
The engine ticks down. Just enough starlight she can see her reflection in the rear view mirror. She does her lipstick.
She looks out. A tent on the dark beach waits for her. A campfire, too, but a strong shape blocks the light.
She checks her lipstick again.
They met on the beach that afternoon. He taught her how to bodysurf. The water was frigid, but he said, “Keep moving,” and this made it all right. He taught her to lunge when the wave was good, to tuck her head and dive when the wave was bad. The shock of cold, dark, quiet, was exhilarating. She emerged into the light anew.
He said, “Diving into dark water, you accept the unknown. You meet it with your face. Knowing this changes nothing. Darkness reveals its secrets just the same.” She was surprised when he added, “You learn its cold indifference.”
She said she would come back in the evening. Freshen up at the motel. She told him, “I could be into you.”
The rear view mirror says perfect. She puts the lipstick in her purse along with the pepper spray and the Lady Smith. Five bullets. All her things are small. They take up all the space in her small world.
But a mirror’s reflection is an opposite. If you see confidence in the mirror, it means you are a coward and a fool. She re-checks her reflection, isn’t sure. She dives into that unknown.
An image of my new art and the new piece of writing by Evan were due the end of July, and art work was then dropped off the end of September. Using the imagery and writings, a book was published showcasing all of the art and writing from the 12 artists and 12 writers. (It is a beautiful book and is available at the Hoffman Center for the Arts.)
Two broadsides were created, the first featured the art I created in response to Kimberly’s Hands, and the second broadside featured the story written by Evan in response to the art that I had submitted.
Fast forward to October when everything was revealed at the opening reception, which took place virtually because of you know what.
The reception was on a Friday night, and the exhibition opened on Saturday, October 3; we were able to visit the show on the following day. What a thrill to see the exhibit in person. The woman who was gallery sitting that afternoon said several people had expressed an interest in purchasing Under Perilous Conditions and someone had purchased my piece that afternoon.